Daredevil marine photographer Kos Evans is no stranger to climbing masts of up to 200ft for spectacular sailing moments. She offers her must-know techniques for shooting compelling cruising subjects
The formula for sailing photography, really, is time. You need to find a boat, a racecourse and the closest point of where the boat will come to you. Look for the moment which portrays what you see about a yacht or a space in time. For me personally, it’s to do with shape and colour and the environment that these sportsmen and women are working in. Whenever I take a picture I think about my subject first, what I want to show about them and the best possible angle.
Mastering Shutter Speed
Use the fastest shutter speed possible. I’d never shoot below 1/1000sec if you’re looking to freeze everything, because when on the water you’re working from a moving platform, shooting a moving subject, so you need to capture that without too much camera shake.
If you like special effects it’s really wonderful working with slow shutter speeds, say 1/30sec or 1/15sec — or even less — to create amazing pictures like the artwork I did with abstract painter Pippa Blake during an art project together in Devon. I photographed as though I was a painter using and moving my camera like a paintbrush, experimenting with different shutter speeds. I tried different ways of ‘painting’, moving the camera up and down or swirling it around. It’s really fun experimenting like this and shooting into and away from the light.
The morning is a more interesting time than evening for me because it’s a cooler, crisper light and it’s great for special effects because the water is really calm. The sea is just like a mirror and sometimes you get little puffs of mists, which are great.
I don’t use a polarising filter because I don’t like the vividness, it’s too extreme for me and it doesn’t feel real. I use a fisheye lens mostly, in a housing, although I don’t go terribly deep in the water. I use a Canon IDs Mark III and a 5D Mark III. I like the variety that the 5D gives, because it presents a lot more versatility when you’re just shooting around people and manoeuvrability aboard a boat — it’s a much smaller camera and I like that. But the IDs Mark III is much more robust and having the motordrive gives you a better balance with long lenses, so I have a combination of the two.
Suit Your Technique to the Boat
Extreme lenses don’t work with classic yachts, for me anyway. It’s more about portrait lenses used in a close-up way. You may not get the whole boat in but it’s more about the way it doesn’t distort and the depth of focus. Once you start getting bendy lenses where everything is becoming bananas it doesn’t work.